Plants in the Garden: February
Started by: Tim IngramGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 25 February 2013, 11:36. Go to bottom of this page.
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Bulbs are also beginning to make more of a show and there are a few early flowers on Muscari pseudomuscari (chalusicum), a particularly delightful species in a genus that often doesn't get its just desserts from gardeners. I find muscari very valuable for their contrasting form to other bulbs. The bright orange Crocus chrysanthus hybrid seemingly was never planted, but appeared from somewhere (probably from topdressing the bed) and makes a glorious show. The simplicity and beauty of crocus flowers is well brought out in the final picture of C. laevigatus and shows why, despite their relatively transient flowers, they are amongst the finest of garden plants.
Although we have opened our garden for very many years, associated with the nursery, this is the first time we have opened in February for the National Gardens Scheme. We were lucky to have a fine day and the snowdrops probably looking as good as ever they have, and had just over 100 visitors, who made the day most enjoyable. We always try to mention the AGS as much as possible, and everyone has to walk past our covered sand bed on the way into the garden, so a few might be intrigued by the alpines growing there - a few new members for our Groups? Well who knows; any gardener who likes to come out on a cold February day has the spirit to grow alpines...
So many visitors in February is no mean feat, Tim. Well done - you must have been very grateful for an improvement in the weather!
Thanks Maggi - yes Garden opening in February is rather a matter of luck with the weather, but there is a lot of interest even from people who are not mad keen on snowdrops. I remember very many years ago visiting Eric Hilton's garden just north of Bristol, and being captivated by it (he writes about in Alpines '86). I always think of alpine gardens as being a cut above most gardens because of their wonderfully detailed interest, but many gardeners probably don't think of plants in this way, and perhaps many alpine gardeners wouldn't consider opening their gardens either. Expectations are always very high and gardens very personal.
While I was never able to visit Eric Hilton's garden, we did have the pleasure of having him stay here when he came to talk in Aberdeen - it seems a very long time ago- well, it IS a long time ago.
One of the most important things I think need to be considered when talking of "alpine gardens is that very few gardens are purley constituted with alpine plants - there may be a real mix of wild, woodland, bulbs, bog and alpine plants - and it is those that are, to me, the most promising and most true to the definition of the AGS. Too often, for my taste, an "alpine garden" might turn out to be not a "proper" garden, but rather a mere collection of plants. There is more to any sort of garden, I believe, than just an accumulation of plants, of whatever sort. ;>))
Spring seems to have arrived in my garden.
After the cold spell everything has come out at once. Helleborus lividus, as usual struggles. I must admit the 'good doers' are my favourites.
Susan - wonderful pictures! My aim has been to combine snowdrops with crocuses, hellebores and other plants like that but it does take quite a long time - and crocus are no good whilst you have rabbits in the garden! I am planting a lot more tommasinianus now, and hope that will spread freely - we have plenty of room for it to do this.
I agree so much with you Maggi. Gardens express what plants really are and teach you so much about the world, especially that sense of dynamism which you get from discovering places and people.
Thank you Tim. The garden is at its best in Spring. In fact it is a disgrace later in the year! The further snowdrops share the space with ground elder, which seems to suit them... and I do sometimes spray the ground elder after the bulb leaves have disappeared. The crocus all get quite a bit more sun than the snowdrops, being only partially shaded by trees, so they do not grow exactly together. Thirty or forty years ago I planted the bulbs all around but they have chosen certain spots to survive and then increase. C. tomasinianus likes the gravel of my drive but the larger area shown is under an apple tree, and this is later taken over by violets and some cow parsley. None of this was planned!
By the way I conclude that I should now be spelling the name of that crocus with a double 'm' to respect the botanit Mutzio Tommasini. All my old books including ones by E B Anderson and Brian Mathew use one 'm'!
Every year for over a decade the Kent Hardy Plant Society, ably supported by members of the AGS, have held a ?Snowdrop & Hellebore Extravaganza? at Goodnestone Park Garden near Canterbury, at the kind invitation of the owner Margaret Fitzwalter (who has been a good friend of the local gardening groups for many years). The description ?Extravaganza? was coined by Graham Gough (Marchants), who along with other fine nurserymen like David Sampson (Oakdene) and William Dyson (Great Comp), and the gardening writer Richard Bird, have brought along their plants and company over the years. The extravagance is really the remarkable range of plants that can be flowering in the garden in mid-February; not only snowdrops and hellebores, but a wealth of early bulbs, and seriously interesting shrubs such as Daphne bholua and odora, of which many new selections are available.
This year we were even more unlucky with the weather than usual, and a bitter wind blew with a dusting of snow, and gardeners who did turn out were nearly as hardy a lot as the nurserypeople. The upside was that the speaker at midday, Penny Dawson of Twelve Nunns nursery, brought with her a mouth-watering selection of Harvington Hellebores from the wholesale nursery run by her parents. These have been developed over very many years by controlled breeding from parent plants from Ballard, Washfield and Ashwood stocks, and include some truly striking colours. As well as concentrating on hellebores they also grow many other choice plants of interest to alpine gardeners, notably Erythroniums, Roscoea and Trilliums. The Hertfordshire nursery ?Daisy Roots? run by Annie Godfrey (whose garden was featured in The Garden - August 2012) had a range of Cornus and winter colour, including one of the Helleborus x ericsmithii selections, ?Winter Sunshine?. I was also excited to see Synthyris stellata, a very lovely American woodlander with short spires of blue flowers over rounded leaves; I remember this growing well at Washfield Nursery and have always wanted to grow it since. Liam Mackenzie (Madrona Nursery), a long time nursery colleague in Kent, who grows one of the finest ranges of woody plants in the country, had the irresistible Mahonia eurybracteata ?Soft Caress?, the leaves as finely cut as some of the Nandinas, to which it is closely related. This decided the case - was it the Mahonia or the equally appealing Edgeworthia chrysantha? A new nursery to me is Alphabet Orchids (from Headcorn in Kent), and with the burgeoning interest in hardy terrestrial orchids it will be very interesting to see some of the plants they will be growing over the next few years. For instance who has come across a blue Bletilla?
The long term stalwarts of the event, like ourselves, brought snowdrops and other small bulbs, along with hot soup and woolly hats. Peter Jacob, Chairman of our East Kent AGS Group, had some fine plants to display including the yellow Daphne jezoensis, Ranunculus calandrinoides and a very large potful of Galanthus plicatus ?Wendy?s Gold?. It may have been cold, and a time of year when most gardeners prefer to do their gardening sitting by the fire with a good magazine, but those of us out on Sunday warmed each others spirits, and there were some very good plants to be had, which so many others will have missed out on.
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